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jdavidb (1361)

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J. David Blackstone has a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Engineering and nine years of experience at a wireless telecommunications company, where he learned Perl and never looked back. J. David has an advantage in that he works really hard, he has a passion for writing good software, and he knows many of the world's best Perl programmers.

Journal of jdavidb (1361)

Thursday July 11, 2002
12:04 PM

Attn gnat re: indexes

[ #6279 ]

Slashdot posted a review of Perl & XML. This book is number one on my list of books to get. The reviewer made some negative comments about the book index and indicated many first edition book indexes aren't very good. [This comment did not impact my desire to get this book soon.]

I was just curious what the indexing process is at O'Reilly. I know Don Libes, author of the Expect book, insisted that his book should have a thorough index. It's so thorough, in fact, that even silly words made in off-hand comments are found so you can find the discussion that they were in. (Strangely useful.) The author doesn't produce the index, do they? Is there an indexing staff? I like good indexes (ever since the Expect book), so you can put down my vote for beefing up the indexing procedures.

All in all, the book seems to be targeted at me according to the review: experienced Perl programmer, understands OO, not afraid of online docs, needs to know what XML is and what to do with it.

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  • Ellen Troutman-Zaig wrote the index for the Slash book. I was floored when she sent me a 23 page PDF for review. She did an incredible amount of work, and I only had a handful of additions and rephrasings. I've actually used the index, and I have a nearly photographic memory of where everything is in the book.

    I couldn't have produced anything half as good, and I'm convinced it makes the book tremendously more valuable.

  • believe it or not, I like having those strange words show up in an index - maybe it's how my brain works, but I find myself saying "I know what I need, it's in that code that has 'diddle' in the comments" fairly often.

    I wish our index was far better than it is, but I trusted the indexers to do their job (which is probably a thankless job that receieves far too much abuse). It wasn't until after I needed the index myself that I realized how important it would be (and how lacking ours ended up).

    To compe
  • We have paid professional indexers. Because they don't know the topic, they don't always nail the right words. We do run it past the author(s) for corrections, additions, etc. Even that is sometimes not enough to guarantee satsifaction.

    As far as I know, we do nothing different between first and second editions for indexes. In some cases, indexing information gets lost in the update so the index has to essentially be rebuilt.


    • I figured it was specialized professionals. (Didn't seem like a piece of software could do a decent job at the problem.) Cool. Well, most of the books I have have decent indexes, although the Libes book stands above them all. I'll be getting the Perl & XML book soon so I'll be able to see if the reviewer was telling the truth about its index or not.

      J. David works really hard, has a passion for writing good software, and knows many of the world's best Perl programmers